HANOI - A day of promise turned into one of near misses and miscues for Singapore’s cue sports athletes on Tuesday (May 17), with the biggest shock coming from Peter Gilchrist, who saw his 13-year stranglehold on the English Billiard men’s singles title coming to an end.
The two-time reigning Sportsman of the Year, 54, had won the gold medal at every edition of the biennial SEA Games since 2009, but faltered in the Vietnamese capital when he lost 3-1 to Myanmar’s Pauk Sa at the Ha Dong Gymnasium.
World No. 1 pool player Aloysius Yapp and Toh Lian Han also lost their respective 9-ball singles semi-finals, while Jessica Tan also suffered defeat in the women’s 9-ball singles final.
All three lost to Philippine opponents.
Four-time billiards world champion Gilchrist admitted he was disappointed by some of his shot making, but he credited Pauk Sa for capitalising with good play, including a competition-high 101-break.
“If someone said 15 years ago that I’d win six golds and a silver, I would have probably taken it,” said Gilchrist.
“It’s been a good run but all good runs have got to come to an end and this one has... We’ve got the doubles, Alex (Puan) and myself (still to come). I’ll bring my A-game and who knows, we might get the elusive doubles gold which (Singapore has) never had before.”
Gilchrist got off to a shaky start by losing the first game 102-11 but then won 100-12 and looked to have found his groove only to cede the table to his opponent in the third game, which he lost 101-31.
In the see-saw deciding game, the Singaporean trailed 25-2 but then rallied to lead 95-66, only to give Pauk Sa an opening which the Myanmar player took to see off the match 100-95 and win the gold.
The SEA Games format features races to 100 points over a best-of-five format, which is different from the long format World Championships where the preliminary round is a race to 400 points, progressively increasing to a race to 1,500 for the title.
This means that Gilchrist’s reputation for being a marathon man counts for little, giving regional rivals a chance to topple him.
But the Singaporean former world No. 1 is already looking at reclaiming the gold at next year’s SEA Games in Cambodia.
“I’ll try to win in Cambodia in a year’s time, and then maybe try to go on another six-gold winning streak. Who knows?” he said.
Noting that Pauk Sa is 63, Gilchrist quipped: “I’m a young pup, I’m only 54.”
Yapp’s search for an elusive SEA Games singles gold medal, meanwhile, continues after he lost 9-7 to familiar foe Carlo Biado to settle for bronze at a second consecutive Games.
World No. 29 Biado, the 2017 world 9-ball champion, had also beaten him in the final of the prestigious US Open last September.
Yesterday, the Singaporean trailed 2-0 but then fought back in a tightly contested duel, although Biado enjoyed some fortuitous breaks.
While Yapp rued not getting the “little bit of luck” he needed, he stressed that he was not disappointed by the defeat given the calibre of players at the SEA Games.
Asked if he felt he had a target on his back as world No. 1, he said: “Not really... Everyone is a top player over here and it’s a very tough tournament. I feel like everyone is more or less the same (level).”
In the other men’s 9-ball semi-final, Yapp’s teammate, coach and mentor Toh lost 9-3 to Johann Chua, who ensured a one-two for the Philippines.
Yapp will get another shot at that elusive singles title when he competes in the 10-ball event on Wednesday.
Tan will also turn her attention to the 10-ball format, after her bid to become Singapore’s first woman cue sports champion at the SEA Games was scuppered on Tuesday.
She won the silver after losing 7-2 to Rubilen Amit, who claimed her fifth gold in the event.
“It was my first time in a final and I think the pressure just kicked in,” said the 29-year-old, who was pleased with her improvement after winning bronze at the 2019 SEA Games.